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Stradivari's Secret


Roger Hargrave
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Could the part of secret be that the only the best violins were so treasured to survive?

  I have a source for waterlogged timber,I used to get off cuts to burn for fire starter.,there is a diffrence from new wood in the snap vs bending,. all snap,little bend, the ash from burning also has a lighter quality,fluffy,not dense . Tree ring data rather rules this out though,as the effect takes years to achieve naturaly.

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So why am I bringing up these old chestnuts now? Well I am just wondering if anyone has any nice theories, that might actually hold water and that they are willing to set up in the shooting gallery here on MN? If you do you might need to be prepared for a bloody nose. But who knows someone might just come up with something useful. Note I used the word theory and not secret here.

 

I use a system to reproduce plate weights, taptones and assembled violin body modes within a couple of Hz and grams. This for different type of wood performance and density. The tuning starts with the arch (higher arch for less performance wood), following with mode 5 and then final adjustment on assembled violin from outside by taping back listen to front and vice versa (B1+/B1-). All this can be done by listening with ear close to plate. No technology needed

 

 

http://www.thestradsound.com/home/modal-goal---strad-average (new domain not sure if it is working yet)

https://sites.google.com/site/peterkgviolins/home/modal-goal---strad-average (same page via sites.google.com)

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Could the part of secret be that the only the best violins were so treasured to survive?

A modification of that idea (in steps 5 and 6)

 

A sequence of "secrets":

1.  Make top quality violins

2.  Make a LOT of them

3.  Have them taken care of by the most highly skilled luthiers

4.  Repeat #3 for 300 years

5.  Have the best ones played by the best musicians

6.  Allow the sub-par ones to live out their lives (if they still live) far from the public ear

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A modification of that idea (in steps 5 and 6)

 

A sequence of "secrets":

1.  Make top quality violins

2.  Make a LOT of them

3.  Have them taken care of by the most highly skilled luthiers

4.  Repeat #3 for 300 years

5.  Have the best ones played by the best musicians

6.  Allow the sub-par ones to live out their lives (if they still live) far from the public ear

Using #5, do the following mental exercise...

If the "star" musican who play the Strad reduce by half, would Strad's violin status recover to today's level?

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Using #5, do the following mental exercise...

If the "star" musican who play the Strad reduce by half, would Strad's violin status recover to today's level?

That would be introducing an inaccurate variable, there is a solid line of reasoning applied to a players choice, so unless we accept the idea that players are simple,tow the line consumers (I do not)then the senario  does not  work.....Strad was doing/ making something distinct enough for people to want the product.If only even marginaly so.    Cremona, in the day, held the crown. Strad had to work/compete for his share of the trade.

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That would be introducing an inaccurate variable, there is a solid line of reasoning applied to a players choice, so unless we accept the idea that players are simple,tow the line consumers (I do not)then the senario  does not  work.....Strad was doing/ making something distinct enough for people to want the product.If only even marginaly so.    Cremona, in the day, held the crown. Strad had to work/compete for his share of the trade.

Yes. That's why it is a mental excise. If players would go back to the Strads' violins as now, we should then study the differences between his distinguish work of all the other distinguish maker at his period and after. As a result, we go back to step 1... "How to build good quality violin" :) Or steps 2, how to have your violin go to skilled luthiers when needed in the future... :)

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 For some reason I'm getting no answers. 

 

That's because you asked on MN.  I suffer too : am lurking here for a while by now wishfully thinking somebody might be stupid enough to carelessly "drop" a bit of really pertinent info but it ain't happening. I'm getting a sort of a nagging feeling that maybe nobody knows. ( That excludes David - David KNOWS, he just ain't telling none !  :lol: )

 

Anyway, if you're REALLY interested I can help. Not with Strad's secret but with a sure method for getting them hairline close. Money back guarantee, of course. 

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Every trade has its secrets, and so does violinmaking. Stradivari was born under a benign star. That's why the secret is impossible to find. It is hidden in the stars. The movie The Red Violin tells about it. I guess that Roger was looking for a more 'hands on' secret.

 

 

I thing, after several years in violin-making, the sound of the instrument you produce is more related to the "idea" or the "line" of what you want, instead of x-thickness, x-frequençy or x-weight. This idea won´t be visible even with a close examination of your work by other maker. For me it´s better to have your own system, even if it doesn´t fit the classic Cremonese, because you understand it very well (normal, you create it!) than to try to reproduce something you don´t understand.

 

 

Maybe it is still true then; the only secret that violin makers have is that they don't have any secrets?

 

 

Or maybe we all have lots of personal choices/secrets that we individually treasure, but little general agreement on them.

 

As Christian says, it's probably more essential to have some personal system you understand thoroughly than to have a 'classical system', even if that is the ideal.

 

Perhaps also, we might sometimes be a bit timid about having our personal treasures publicly stomped on.

 

Here are some of my 'personal secrets'.  I'm aiming for a 'classical build', but how can anyone truly know:

 

  • Use compass and rule constructions in simple integer proportions for everything
  • Avoid materials and tools that weren't available to the old makers
  • Proportion my constructions from classical models
  • Carve/cut all complex shapes through sequences of simple well bound cuts
  • Consider that all parts of the violin must flex and provide fitting strength
  • Consider the natural priority of catenary and trumpet shapes, in transmission of force and vibration
  • Consider that differences in impedance reflect instead of transmit
  • Let the long arch and channeling bound the plate arching
  • pinch in the top arching around the cBouts some for geometric stiffness
  • mind the relation between channel, low eye, and arching
  • Imagine the top as mainly a diaphragm thickness
  • Imagine the back center mass as a capacitor for vibrations
  • Imagine the possibility that the sides/edge system are circuiting vibrations
  • Imagine the uBout as inclosing an air mass with a rather defined mouth
  • Imagine the LowerBout as inclosing an air mass with a poorly defined mouth
  • Imagine the sound holes shapes as tracing both small hole, large hole, and ribbon shaped outlets
  • Imagine the upper treble wing of the table torquing from the bridge feet against post action for highest vibrations
  • Imagine the bass side, unified partial by the bar, torquing form bridge and post for lower vibrations
  • Imagine the bridge, post, and plates pumping up and down for more middle range action
  • Imagine twist action through the gap between the upper eyes.  Stiff enough to connect upper and lower bouts. Thin enough to twist.
  • Imagine the relation of mass/center to bridge, post, and bar, as indicated in the Strad/Amati paper template
  • Capture fine pigment suspensions in oil solvent with a slight addition of oil varnish and balsam
  • Use this kind of colored suspension to guide scraping, and to impregnate wood texture
  • Think of coloring in layers/stages: bring up texture, finish golden, color layer, clear or slightly toned varnish protection over.
  • Consider varnish/binder without sufficient particle content to be a rubber vibration absorbent blanket
  • Use egg yolk and varnish 'mayo' as binder for the main color layer
  • Combine and alternate use of proteins, spirits, water gums, and oils/varnish at will
  • look to Cennini and company to evaluate good art materials practice, rather than to modern sources

I consider this a valuable thread topic.  So please, stomp away -- or share.

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Apparently no one has found any arching templates from strads workshop, they may have been lost over time or he may have formed his arching's with a gauge like contours on a map, it does ensure symmetry and balance. Does anyone form their tops by this method?

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A little while back we went through the arching scenario with a lot of good answers but no consensus. Something factual that Roger mentioned, the possibility of thicknessing and tuning by some, means, maybe little ditty after the body was assembled. The value of this can be shown by simply playing a radio at a door and observe the decrease or increase in projection at certain angles. If you could maximize the top and the back to the optimal deflection of sound over the whole inst, would this give the greatest wolf ever or a nice sounding inst.  fred  

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 For some reason I'm getting no answers. 

 

42.  The answer to everything.

 

The problem with all answers is that none of them can be proven or disproven... regarding sound quality.  Unprovability allows for the persistence of a wide variety of beliefs.

 

Certainly the bent-plate fans have easily proven evidence against them, at least in terms of historical precidence.  Likewise, the plate "tuners" have plenty of evidence against that too.... at least, the idea that some specific number or ratio is the hidden Cremonese key to greatness.  Some beliefs persist in the face of evidence to the contrary, and it is tiring to keep stomping on them.

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Bending the tops. Is it possible that the tonal qualities are aided by this method?

I'm just biting and biting here, wondering who has heard what. But I am still agreeing that the "secret" is superior workmanship.

[/q

The "secret" is certainly not superior workmanship. By modern standards most of the Cremonese were rather indifferent to modern standards of symetry, accuracy or finish. I think Don Noon got it about right. A good sense of style, a lot of long hard hours and being at the right place at the right time go a long way.

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Bending the tops. Is it possible that the tonal qualities are aided by this method?

I'm just biting and biting here, wondering who has heard what. But I am still agreeing that the "secret" is superior workmanship.

[/q

The "secret" is certainly not superior workmanship. By modern standards most of the Cremonese were rather indifferent to modern standards of symetry, accuracy or finish. I think Don Noon got it about right. A good sense of style, a lot of long hard hours and being at the right place at the right time go a long way.

 

And don't forget 300 years of tweaking by restorers and playing, often by excellent players.

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Either there are no secrets, or there is an infinite amount of secrets, and makers just don't know it.

We do not talk about the secret of Amati, yet if I found an Amati in my attic, I would be very happy.

 

The problem with most myths, and that is exactly what we are dealing with here, is that one does not know just how much truth they are grounded in.

Troy being an example, until it was dug up, anyone saying it existed had a good chance of being laughed at.

The man who dug it up believed in his heart that it existed.

 

 

Forget violins.   Try something more important on for size.

 

For some we live in a universe that is so precise and beautiful that it screams of a Creator.

To others there is no God.  Creation without a Creator.

Now how can two such opposing views exist when there is only one universe that we all live in.

All the evidence is there for both parties.

Where lies the truth?

A simple examination of the facts should provide an easy answer ....

So why the problem then?

People have minds, but they also have hearts.

 

For the general public, Stradivari or what we percieve to be Stradivari appeals to their hearts.

For Scientists who as a group try to be objective, usually relying on data such as sound tests, logically conclude that

other makers trump Strad.

 

I would hazard a guess and say that in 1700 there were more people that chose with their heart, and that today to is a growing number of people that try to be objective, and so the Myth of Stradivari is coming more and more under attack.

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42.  The answer to everything.

 

The problem with all answers is that none of them can be proven or disproven... regarding sound quality.  Unprovability allows for the persistence of a wide variety of beliefs.

 

Certainly the bent-plate fans have easily proven evidence against them, at least in terms of historical precidence.  Likewise, the plate "tuners" have plenty of evidence against that too.... at least, the idea that some specific number or ratio is the hidden Cremonese key to greatness.  Some beliefs persist in the face of evidence to the contrary, and it is tiring to keep stomping on them.

Can you tell me what you get when you multiply 6 by 9?

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Two Cremonese luthiers sit at a table in a smoky, ill-lit tavern, guzzling a cheap red wine.

"I wonder if anyone's ever gonna give a damn how we do this stuff better than the Krauts?"

"Oh yeah, they will someday, I know it for a fact."

"How you know something like that, Tony?  Nobody knows the future!"

 

Stradivari drains his mug, and says, "Come with me back to the shop, I show you something."

Back at the shop, he unlocks a chest, and hands his friend a violin from inside.

 

"Back when I was just a youngster, working for Old Man Amati, a guy came in the shop one day, walked around looking at everything.  Spoke godawful Italian.  Got Amati to set up a couple violins for him, bought some more.  Then he sees me, asks who I am, and damned if he didn't take me to lunch.  Asked me all manner of questions about how we did stuff, crap any kid in town knows."

 

"So who was he?"

 

"I'm getting to that.  We get back to Amati's, he looks at the violin I was finishing up, and asks if he can buy it.  I'd been helping with the setups earlier, he had a violin seemed to play better than anything I'd ever seen.  I tell him I'll trade him straight across for that violin.  He looks taken aback, then grins really big and says, 'Why not'.  It's the one you're holding now.  I've been more or less copying the damned thing ever since.  Here, play it."

 

[sounds of violin being played]

 

"Damn, that's fine and a half.  Who made it?"

 

"Hold it up to the lantern and look at the label"

 

"Copy of.....my ass!  How could it be a copy of yours?  And that date is crazy!"

 

"Well, I think somebody over 300 years from now knows how to visit their past, and they are still copying my violins.  But the joke's on them 'cause I'm copying theirs [loud laughter]".

 

"Maybe so, maybe you're crazy, the whole thing makes my head hurt! [peers more closely at label]  I wonder who this guy 'Hargrave' is?"  :lol::P:blink::ph34r:

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